Saturday, October 20, 2012
Gigi Levangie Grazer
Ballantine/July 10, 2012
L.A. is no place for widows. This is what forty-four-year-old Hannah Bernal quickly discovers after the tragic death of her handsome and loving husband, John. Misery and red-rimmed eyes are little tolerated in the land of the beautiful. But life stumbles on: Hannah’s sweet three-year-old daughter, Ellie, needs to be dropped off at her overpriced preschool, while Hannah herself must get back to work in order to pay the bills on “Casa Sugar,” the charming Spanish-styled bungalow they call home.
Fortunately, Hannah has her “Grief Team” for emotional support: earth mother and fanatical animal lover Chloe, who finds a potential blog post in every moment; aspiring actress Aimee, who has her cosmetic surgeon on speed dial; and Jay, Hannah’s TV producing partner, who has a penchant for Mr. Wrong. But after a series of mishaps and bizarre occurrences, one of which finds Hannah in a posh Santa Monica jail cell, her friends start to fear for her sanity. To make matters worse, John left their financial affairs in a disastrous state. And when Hannah is dramatically fired from her latest producing gig, she finds herself in danger of losing her house, her daughter, and her mind.
One night, standing in her backyard under a majestic avocado tree, in the throes of grief, Hannah breaks down and asks, “Why?” The answer that comes back—Why not?—begins an astounding journey of discovery and transformation that leads Hannah to her own truly extraordinary life after death.
Finally finished. This took a very long time to get through. I started reading this back in July but couldn't get into it. So I set it aside, thinking I would come back to it soon. Fast forward a few months and I've finished The After Wife with little to recommend it.
Hannah Bernal has what seems to be the perfect life. A wonderful, loving husband whom she is completely mad for. A beautiful little girl who brings such joy to their lives and a home filled with happiness and love. Then, all of that seems to be gone. Hannah's husband is killed and her life is falling apart. She still has her daughter but can't stop herself from focusing on her loss, instead of focusing on her daughter who needs her. As Hannah falls into despair she finds out she has a unique ability that will eventually help her cope with her loss and give her life new purpose.
While Hannah tries to deal with her grief the world around her continues on. Her friends, the "Grief Team", are there to try to help but they all have numerous problems of their own. The problem I had with these characters was that I couldn't drum up any real concern or interest for them. Lots of pretentious, self absorbed people living in Hannah Bernal's world. Her deceased husband, I think I might have liked him, before he died.
There is also the sense that Hannah is always on the outside looking in. It didn't ever feel like she fit in, anywhere. I often wondered where this woman in the flashbacks went to. In the flashbacks prior to her husband's death, she seems strong, resourceful and intelligent. After, those qualities are gone, replaced with a woman who acts as though she has nothing to live for. Suicide is mentioned fairly often, even joked about, which I found to be in very poor taste. This book may be considered humorous but most of the jokes fell flat, trying to make light of serious subjects only proved to belittle genuine feelings of pain and loss.
So much of the story feels over the top in the highly superficial setting. There are numerous references to pop culture which became tedious. When deeper emotions began to surface from Hannah, they were cut short by sarcastic remarks and Hannah talking of wanting to leave this world and be with John. Then there is Hannah's irresponsible attitude which irritated me to no end. At one point she has no job, no income, is about to lose her home but decided to go off to a spa for a couple of days with her friends. I just wanted her to get it together and be proactive in her life, cherish her daughter and friends, not hide from the responsibility of living.
In the end, The After Wife could have been so much more.